@whispered secret mentioned it in the telly thread, and a few of us have brought it up in various places, so I thought perhaps a dedicated thread might be worth doing.
I really think this is an amazing documentary. At first I thought ‘8 hours?!’ and when it was over I thought ‘only 8 hours?’
I’m always a little sceptical of what might be deemed revisionist history, and, it’s important to point out that I’ve never actually seen the movie Let It Be, but I think Peter Jackson has gone a long way towards lifting some of the dark veil and sad mythology that has surrounded this album and period of The Beatles for decades. That he has done so only with the original film footage and audio (once we get to Apple, we are mostly watching real footage as it happens but at Twickenham a lot of it is audio with ‘corresponding images’ but that doesn’t detract from it) More importantly, no cuts to newly filmed interviews or talking heads. No ‘experts’ telling us what they think about it all. Yes, Jackson's editing is important, but we are seeing the members of the band, as it happened and we can decide for ourselves what we think the mood or undercurrent was. Was that remark from John nasty or a good natured jibe? Was George as undervalued as many believe? Was Paul trying to run the band? And did Ringo have the patience of a saint? (Spoiler alert, the answer is yes)
One of the aspects that kept running through my mind, over and over while watching, was the mind boggling fact that when they convened at Twickenham in January 1969, recording on The Beatles (what we all know as The White Album) had finished in mid-October, less than 3 months before. The album had been released at the end of November! Added to that, once the dust settled on the legendary rooftop performance, and the final recording done at Apple on the 31st of January, it would be less than a month before they reconvened to start recording Abbey Road… Try and wrap your head around the amount of incredible material recorded for those three records in less than an 18 month period…
The recording sessions at Twickenham are lifeless, stilted, and the tension is palpable for many reasons. The band are uncomfortable, the surroundings are awful, and the constant filming, cameras in their faces is clearly killing the creative spark. Paul looks to become more desperate to make something happen. He is clearly one of those people who lives, eats, breathes music. He is constantly creating or singing in the footage. The section where he essentially germinates the song Get Back from nothing, from noodling on the bass guitar, having nothing become the framework of the song we know in a minute or two, is an absolute highlight.
Some of the jams and takes are fun to watch. I took great delight in seeing Paul sing 'South Africa' in the 'song' Commonwealth.
I did not know The Beatles consumed as much toast and jam as they did… that’s something I never thought I’d see!
For me it’s really only once they get to the Apple basement that the band start getting it together.
Actually getting to see the footage of Billy Preston joining the session and watching Paul’s face light up when he starts playing the Rhodes electric, is one of the greatest moments I’ve witnessed on screen. There is no doubt in my mind that Billy energized the band, brought them focus, even made them behave (there’s a guest in the studio!) and is a key element to what made these songs start to come alive.
The highlight of the documentary (and of course it made for a no brainer as a finale or climax to the film) is seeing the rooftop performance in almost its entirety in real time, as if it were filmed yesterday. I predict current and future bands will study that footage for years to come. Clearly, The Beatles were a really good live band. That we don’t really have a decent live album, sans screaming fans, is a travesty. They played well together, and man they rocked… Paul and Johns’ harmonies are so as tight to be almost indistinguishable. And seeing the joy on their faces, the bond between those two playing live… I will be watching that last part of episode 3 many, many times. I sincerely hope there is a Blu Ray release, and one of the bonus features is the full rooftop show without the dialogue from the street and reception, just the music. Jackson LOVES bonus features so it’s a real possibility.
That the music was then deemed to be substandard and was eventually only released after Abbey Road is also telling of how high a standard the band set for themselves.
My take outs?
-Paul was and is a true creative genius. Then and now. And he is of course an incredible bassist. After the death of Brian Epstein, which is a crucial factor in the mental state the band were in at the time this was filmed, I think Paul tried to guide the band and it clearly created resentment. The ‘flower pot’ audio makes that clearly evident.
-John strikes me as a difficult person, but he and Paul together, were always the magic behind the band, I think. When he was sincere, and there are many moments we see when he is, he is a really nice person who also just wanted to make the best music they could and loved doing so.
-George WAS underappreciated, I think. And his frustration was mostly warranted. That he made a triple album the following year, speaks volumes.
-Ringo is so much better a drummer than I confess to having given him credit for. And although he was often seen as the band clown, perhaps, when he spoke, no one argued. He was taken seriously. Ringo doesn’t want to travel? We aren’t traveling.
-George Martin… Ever the gentleman. He was such a core element of this band’s success, wasn’t he… And the love and respect they all had for him is clear to be seen. And I think it was very much mutual.
-Because she is forever entwined in the Beatles story, one does have to decide what Yoko’s impact had on the band. Did she break up The Beatles? After watching the documentary, I would say no. Was she a factor? Yes. For years John and Paul would sit together for hours and write songs. Hard to do that with someone reading the paper between you or, worse still, yelling into a microphone. S’truth.
- I know some Beatles fans who for whatever reason didn't like Mal Evans. I liked him from this, the only place I've really seen him. He looked like a nice guy ever at the beck and call of the band.
-Michael Lindsay-Hogg... The word that comes to mind is... ponce.
Like I said elsewhere, a must see for music fans, and essential viewing for Beatles fans.